A charming thief and a band of unlikely adventurers embark on an epic quest to retrieve a lost relic, but things go dangerously awry when they run afoul of the wrong people.
With the medieval action/fantasy epic genre being worn out to death in recent years, and a franchise with a less than notable track record, Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves is the year’s most pleasant surprise so far. Sure, the conflict and world-building tread the line of “just enough” and the exposition isn’t that engaging, but Jonathan Goldstein and John Francis Daley imbue the film with a well-meaning, heartfelt energy that provides unexpected laughs and charm. Unlike a lot of bland fantasy action films from recent years like King Arthur: Legend of the Sword, Warcraft or the countless Hercules reboots, the characters in this movie feel like they have actual souls and empathetic reasons for the audience to root for them, not just in the quest but in their personal journeys. Chris Pine reminds the audience why his charisma works so naturally for a leading man, even though his character is occasionally greedy and a misfit. Michelle Rodriguez also delivers a more hardcore but lovable character than Letty from the Fast and Furious saga, and Justice Smith also delivers a sorcerer learning to gain his confidence well. Rege-Jean Page and Sophia Lillis both play standouts as very well-realized characters that may one day deserve a cool spinoff. Hugh Grant is also a silly yet fun villain, though his character’s presence and writing do the bare minimum for an antagonist to face off against the main team, and with an actor less capable than Grant, the role would’ve needed much more to sustain the audience’s attention.
Though some of the visual effects and green-screen are obvious, the movie isn’t trying to remind too much of the Lord of the Rings films, but rather create a jolly and comedic journey that perfectly fits the imagination, playfulness and vast possibilities of the Dungeons & Dragons brand. The action and excitement are enough to make up for conflict and rules that seem cliche, not to mention editing, direction and humor that make this not a must-watch, but better than it had any right to be, and will make the audience have a smile on their face and want to spend even more time with these characters than they ever thought they would.